Chris Powell’s first game in charge of Huddersfield Town ended in defeat thanks to an added time penalty from Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter.
Middlesbrough took the lead through another Leadbitter set piece, with the midfielder hammering home an impressive long range free kick 10 minutes before half-time, but Town never gave in and equalised when substitutes Danny Ward and Jon Stead combined to give the latter his second goal of the season.
It looked like a point for Town – only for one mistake to cost the Terriers dearly deep into added time.
The game started at a furious pace, with Boro’s Spanish striker Kike scuffing an early shot wide at one end and Town’s Bermudian Nahki Wells sent an acrobatic overhead kick into the waiting arms of visiting ‘keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.
The atmosphere was already brilliant with Powell making his managerial debut for Town and a bumper 3,200 following from Teesside, but it stepped up a level just after the 20 minute mark when James Vaughan looked to be put clear by strike partner Wells. Unfortunately the striker overran the ball, but it didn’t stop him from going into a tough challenge with the visiting Greek custodian.
With Boro fans and players baying for a red card – so much so that Captains Grant Leadbitter and Lee Peltier had a heated exchange that the referee had to split up – Vaughan was shown a yellow. Unfortunately for the Terriers, he seemed to limp away shortly afterwards and was soon replaced by Jon Stead.
Joel Lynch soon hit the top of the bar from a Jacob Butterfield corner before Town’s former Boro midfielder – playing off the right of midfield – stepped inside, beat two players and forced Konstantopoulos into a smart save low to his right side.
Unfortunately, just as Town were getting on top, Boro took the lead through a stunning free-kick. When Wells conceded a foul with a clumsy aerial challenge, Leadbitter stepped up and swerved a super strike away from Alex Smithies and into the top corner from 35 yards out.
That strike seemed to shock Town and Boro dominated the rest of the half, with Smithies needed to superbly push Kike’s low shot around the post after the Spaniard isolated impressive Town debutant Mark Hudson and poked a snapshot between the defender’s legs.
Town managed to get into half-time just one goal down, but Boro started well again and Town’s defence had to come to the fore. Smithies was on hand to smother the ball smartly at Kike’s feet as well as make a smart stop from Adomah, whereas sponsor’s ‘Man of the Match’ Lynch and Jack Robinson made several superb defensive headers to get rid of the several corners that the visitors forced.
Kike header over a decent chance from a cross from the dangerous Adomah and it was hard to see where Town’s equaliser was coming from – but then it did!
It was the boot of substitute Jon Stead that looked to have earned Town at least a point with four minutes of usual time remaining after a lively substitute appearance. The move started when ex-Boro man Butterfield found his way out of a tight situation and sprayed a pass out to Danny Ward, whose low cross was perfect for the Town Academy graduate to turn home.
That goal brought the Terriers to life, with a genuine feeling for a time that Town might even nick a winner. Wells and third sub Joe Lolley didn’t make the most of decent openings, but the signs were promising.
Then disaster struck. A Boro cross from the right was overhit and drifted out to the left touchline, only for right back Tommy Smith to inexplicably pull back visiting winger Adam Reach – giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty.
Up stepped Leadbitter to break Town hearts, sending Smithies the wrong way from 12 yards to seal all three points.
Town’s team vs. Middlesbrough (4-4-2):
Alex Smithies; Jack Robinson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson, Tommy Smith; Harry Bunn (Joe Lolley, 61), Lee Peltier (Danny Ward, 80), Conor Coady, Jacob Butterfield; James Vaughan (Jonathan Stead, 27), Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Paul Dixon, Sean Scannell, Murray Wallace